By MARK BURGESS
There was a huge turnout for the grand opening of the long-awaited Hamnavoe Marina on Saturday evening, a momentous occasion in the history of the Burra village and one which marks a significant positive addition to the surrounding community.
Between 200 and 300 people saw Charlie Laurenson, assisted by the late John Herbert Halcrow’s grandchildren, Sophie and Owen, cut the ribbon following a poignant procession by a flotilla of 14 boats that formed up in the mouth of Hamna Voe and sailed in to their new berths. Charlie and John Herbert were the key figures behind the project. Charlie led the flotilla in his vessel, the Swift.
The state of the art marina, fitted and equipped to the highest standards, represents an investment of £870,000 into the island village and comes as part of ongoing investments now thought to exceed £1million in improvements to the centre of Hamnavoe in recent years, sourced by local group the Hamnavoe Waterfront Development Association.
The history of the marina development goes back at least seven years. As Charlie can relate they had previous attempts at finding a suitable marina for Burra, one previous idea being to use a location next to the Burra/Trondra bridge which failed without the necessary funding. Another involved the usage of the existing spur jetty – that was rejected by the harbour authority.
The need for a suitable marina was demonstrated year upon year as winter storms caused vessels to drag or break their moorings and go ashore. The necessity for checking a boat 24 hours a day eventually caused most boat owners to give up mooring their boats in Hamnavoe in winter, and even some from doing so in summer too.
The new marina has caused a dramatic reversal of this situation with 44 berths all accounted for, including ones available for visiting vessels, and a waiting list already in existence.
Experienced boatmen have already noted that the layout of the breakwater means that no swells reach inside the arm at all, creating unheard-of security for local boat owners.
The ideal location of the facility has even attracted interest from boat owners from Lerwick to access the fishing grounds in the Haaf and between the isles and Skeld.
Charlie expressed his satisfaction at the project’s completion, saying:”It’s splendid, probably the best een that’s come.”
The marina was built by Varis engineering of Forres. The design features fendered fingers with hull-friendly radiused ends and are equipped with mooring cleats. The main framework is hot-dip galvanised steel. The floats are rotationally moulded, UV stabilised, medium density polyethylene, producing 5mm thick shells that are are seamless and resistant to oil and chemicals and, hence, virtually indestructible.
The central pontoon and fingers are decked with a tough wood and resin composite material, while the walkway is floored with a non-slip fibreglass material. Every second berth along the length of the marina is furnished with service modules featuring ample shore power connections and every second module also offers fresh water connections. The marina is moored in three fathoms of water and the entry channel is nearer four and there is capacious maneouvring space within the confines of the breakwater arm.
Association secretary Julie Mackie said: “Hamnavoe has always been a perfect bay for boats but in recent years it’s been so quiet. Since the marina has been built it’s got everybody speaking and newsing at the pier-head again like they used to. We lost all that when the boats went to Scalloway. Now we’ve got that back and it’s such a good thing. We’ve got the people back.”
After entering their berths skilfully and in ordered fashion the boat crews assembled around the marina gangway for a short ceremony, with chairman of the Hamnavoe Waterfront Development Association, Angus Ward, giving a short speech of thanks and appreciation followed by the ceremonial ribbon cutting.
The assembled crowd and boat crews then withdrew to the Hamnavoe public hall, where initially in the downstairs of the building there was a comprehensive and impressive slideshow, created by Catherine Emslie, of photographs summarising the history of Hamnavoe harbour from the late 50s to the boom days of the Burra fishing fleet in the 1970s and the gradual decline of boat activity in the harbour in recent years.
The evening progressed upstairs in the hall, filled to capacity, as more speeches led onto an informal social evening of music and entertainment from an assortment of prominent musicians and all round entertainers, some of whom were home from the mainland for the occasion.
Re-iterating what he had said earlier at the opening, Angus Ward expressed appreciation to all involved in saying: “Thanks to everyone in the community for their involvement. It’s good to see life back in the village, the whole community are looking forward to using the marina, even the smaller commercial boats for landing mackerel.”
Local councillors Betty Fullerton and Iris Hawkins were both in attendance and combined forces to state: “This is an excellent community effort and we’re particularly impressed with the committee members and volunteers who have worked so hard since 2002.
“As Julie Mackie said this has regenerated the area by giving a focus for people to gather and yarn.”
The majority of the funding toward the marina project came from the SIC’s community development department, to the tune of 80 per cent of the total cost. The remainder of the funding came as 10 per cent from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and slightly more than a further 10 per cent from local fundraising and businesses. This small excess enabled the HWDA to make a donation of £1,000 to local charity Mind Your Head in a cheque presented during the speeches.
Celebrations carried on late into the night.